Mike Bean was named CEO of Desert Diamond Casinos & Entertainment in April 2021. Desert Diamond is the casino arm of the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, which operates four casinos in Arizona. He has extensive experience in gaming working for Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and Harrah’s Entertainment, and was most recently the CEO of the Saginaw Chippewa Gaming Enterprises in Michigan. Bean recently was responsible for the opening of the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino in Glendale. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at G2E in October. (Listen to audio above or view the video below).
GGB: You just replaced your temporary casino in the West Valley with the permanent Desert Diamond. What’s special about this facility?
Mike Bean: It’s a nice new product in a great location. Over the past year we’ve spent a lot of time partnering with what’s referred to as the Westgate Entertainment Center. It has State Farm Stadium where the NFL Cardinals play. We recently became the naming partner for the arena nearby, so that is now Desert Diamond Arena. And within the Westgate Entertainment District, there are lots of shopping outlets, bars and restaurants. We are part of that area and it’s really nice to have that full entertainment zone next to our casino.
Give us some background of Desert Diamond Casinos.
We have four casinos. We have two in the Tucson market, one in Tucson itself, another one that is about 10 miles to the south, Sahuarita. And then we have the West Valley Casino, which is in Glendale, really basically adjacent to and practically part of Phoenix. And then we have a smaller casino in a town called Ajo, which is in the southwestern part of the state. We also have an opportunity to build a fifth casino as a result of the more recent compact renewals in Arizona. And the nation has acquired land to do that, and that land is pending being taken into trust. And while that’s occurring, we are planning for the ground-up build for that operation.
Tell us what you found when you arrived at Desert Diamond. Was there a lot of work that could be done?
It’s a well-run company and I’m fortunate to be part of it. When I got there we were still getting out of Covid. So the change that the team and I focused on was really doing our best to be responsible, but get ourselves back to what we call normal operations. And this past year was the first year since Covid where we are having a true benchmark for our business, even though planning and budgeting were difficult. So that’s where a lot of the focus has been. Because it’s such a well-run company, my focus will be on some refinement of the operations, but really on the growth. We ultimately hope to grow that Glendale property. It does not have a hotel, so we plan to add a hotel, a spa, convention space, entertainment, and more bars and restaurants. We want to make it more of a regional destination.
Obviously, the Phoenix market is the largest market in the state. I was in the temporary casino soon after it opened and it was packed. Now that the permanent is open you must be really busy.
Yes, we are. It’s such a beautiful casino, with tremendous amenities. We have more slots and tables. And that location is great—easy on, easy off. I’m a big believer in having great access, especially in such an incredibly dense population, but it’s not dead center in the middle of it where it’s difficult to get in and out. Things there are going very well.
We know the Phoenix area casinos are very local casinos. Most of your business must be very close by.
That’s very accurate. As a matter of fact, in our database, 90 percent of our business is within a 15-minute drive time. And that’s great. That also says to us that because we’re in the early phase of our life cycle, we see opportunity in getting more market penetration as awareness grows.